Deli Magazine

Interview with stereosleep

- by Dawn Reed

How did the band start? 

We met on Craigslist to be honest, which seems to be the best way to meet fellow musicians in DC.  We formed after hearing the song "To Tell the Truth" posted in a craigslist add by our singer songwriter Donny Ray.  Bruce, the bass player contacted Donny Ray and the two begin searching for an additional guitarist after former stereosleep guitarist, Evan Oxhorn left for China for a summer.  We found guitarist Alexandre Jeanty, and our former drummer, Cooper Glodoski, also using Craigslist.  When Cooper moved to Chicago, Billy Wood became the new drummer and we have been making music and playing shows since.  .

Where did the band name come from?

The name was actually interesting.  We struggled for nearly the first 8 months of our existence to find a name.  Donny Ray the singer would constantly email lists of potential names to the group but we could never settle on one.  He forwarded the name Stereo Street to the band, which received mild acceptance, the next day Bruce said, "what if just call it stereosleep?" Donny Ray, completely exhausted with the process, begged the band to accept.  We did and ran with it.

What are your biggest musical influences? 

As a band, we all love Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, Bloc Party, a little Nirvana, and the lead singer/song writer, Donny Ray is a massive Radiohead fan and also grew up listening to tons of gospel.

AJ (guitar): Nirvana, Metallica, Sublime, Jane's Addiction, and downtempo electronic

What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?

Donny Ray (vocals/guitar): National/International: Radiohead, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Bloc Party, them Crooked Vultures, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Deadmau5, LCD Soundsystem, Stevie Wonder, Phoenix, Coldplay, anything with Cee-Lo, N  Local- Buster Brown & Get Down band comes to mind, Diamonds Ahead, Fourmanchu, The XO's, Fear of Virgina, and Ugly.

AJ: Baroness, The Kills, Underworld, Com Truise, and Matthew Dear.

What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?

Donny Ray: concert, New Kids on the Block with Kid and Play (I'm not joking either)  and first album I purchased on my own was Thirller.

Billy (drums): Boston Pops in grade school (brass symphony)- album: probably Led Zep or Rush... 

Bruce (bass): First Concert I attended was Kiss in 1989.  First Album (Bruce Springsteen Born In The USA cassette and the Ghost busters soundtrack)

AJ: Everclear with Spacehog and Tracey Bonham was the show.  First tape was Aerosmith - Get a Grip.  First CD was Nevermind.

What do you love about DC's music scene?

Donny Ray: Great Venues. Always have good bands coming through. Any night of the week you can go see a show. The network - everyone is really chill, curious, and approaches new sounds with open ears. DC is a very Type "A" city.  Folks are very deep into their work and their careers. And as a result, most conversations in the city start with, "What do you do?" It carries a lot of weight.  Overtime, however, you begin to realize that there's so much more than meets the eye.  I began as a staffer on Capitol Hill for years and initially all my friends were focused on their Hill careers. But then I found out I had friends who could cook, others who could bake cupcakes and pastries, others who painted, and some who were into music.  After a while you meet all these people who you've always known were smart, but that you thought were one dimensional and it turns out that they are multi dimensional.  So this music scene is built larger on that, people with really serious lives, but who have this creative outlet, and that makes this a place with a very unique musical perspective.

What would you like to see change in the local music scene?

Donny Ray: That said, people don't really seek out live music in the same way that people do in some others cities, like NYC or Baltimore. People will go see bands if they know someone, but there is less sort of unprovoked inertia for local music than I wish there was. We are constantly blown away by bands with whom we share the stage.  If I could change anything, I'd love to see more people out on the streets just hitting up venues on a whim to see what's out there.

What are your plans for the upcoming year? 

New York, New York, New York, we want to just hit up the entire East Coast. We also hope to record a full length album, which we hope to do late summer or early fall. 

What was your most memorable live show?

Donny Ray: We headlined our first show on the Main Stage at Black Cat in February, that was amazing, just the natural energy of playing the Cat.  In addition, however, we played Velvet Lounge last Friday, and the crowd wasn't huge, but everyone was just vibing and totally into the music, it was pure energy and I loved it.

Bruce: Danzig at the ritz..I guess it was 1992??  I caught Chuck Biscuits drumstick.

Billy: Well, this last week has been pretty incredible.

AJ: stereosleep's first show that was also my first show.  It was the biggest thrill and a great base to build off of for the band.

Is there someone who has helped your band grow through support? 

Fear of Virginia (Dave Turner and the gang).  We were looking for our first gig last year, and AJ knew Dave who put us on our first bill at Rock and Roll Hotel.  Since then we've been rolling.  They played their last show just a few weeks ago and I was really sad to them go.  I love those guys, love playing with them, love listening to them. They are just all around amazing guys (and girl).  I'm certain we wouldn't be playing as much as we do without them.  We are eternally grateful.  Also to Steve Lambert who booked us for that and other shows, and Vicki at Black Cat for trusting us upstairs on the main stage, that really means a lot. Family and friends, whether they are other bands or my family of friends...all the biggest supports ever! And all of our fans.

Is there a piece of equipment you couldn't live without and why? 

Bruce: No, I'm always buying new stuff.

Billy: As a drummer, i have way too much equipment & i need it all.  But everything sounds like hell without a drumkey.

AJ: My electric guitar with or without the amp.  It feels super good and I can use it as a secondary voice.

Donny Ray:  Sheesh, that's a really tough question.  My initial thought is my guitar, my second thought is my amp.  I think for me, however, it's a pen.  When I started writing songs, I realized it wasn't just that I wanted to make cool music, but that it was that I needed to say something.  The rhythm, the melodies, and the lyrics are all part of a larger statement I want to make about something or other.  I spent time writing for several Senators. In my free time, I was always blogging or writing political rants to friends.  It was all apart of this absolute need to state what I'm feeling about a particular topic.  I think this music is no different. Whether it's about politics, our song "To Tell the Truth", where the lyrics say, "Tell me a story and make me feel, the lies that you're telling me are for real".  Or our new song, "Fiend", with the lyrics, "Put it in your pocket, hide it in your coat, put in your nose or drink down your throat, hide it in your locker or when your parents go, you're fiending for your secret don't let nobody know," which is about the secrets we covet.  Or one my favorites, our song "All the Pretty Things" which is about the facade of Washington, DC, the perceived nobility with the veiled excess, with lyrics "It was a real cool scene, all the pretty people and all their little pretty things, and as the night wore on, the feelings gone and all the roses start to bleed, and all their noses start to bleed."  All these are statements about life.  And I view each song as a single statement or speech or essay. That's what this music is to me.

Why do you read The Deli? 

Donny Ray: I started looking at the Deli when a friend from a band called Rival Skies was in one of the band polls. I read it because it helps me stay in touch with what’s happening in music here.  I love knowing what's out there so I can support it.

AJ: Definitely to keep a finger on the pulse. It's also cool to see promotions out on the streets and then see it backed up online.